Singer-Songwriter Jessica Pratt's Latest Album Is A Distinct Shift From Her Austere Sound

Jessica Pratt poses for a portrait in Los Angeles, Friday, April 26, 2024, to promote the album “Here in the Pitch." (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jessica Pratt poses for a portrait in Los Angeles, Friday, April 26, 2024, to promote the album “Here in the Pitch." (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — When Jessica Pratt released her debut self-titled album, which she boasts had virtually no post-production, the singer-songwriter was critically praised for her austere guitar and hypnotic voice. The 2011 album’s imperfections were a feature rather than a drawback.

It should come as no surprise then that the indie musician is proceeding with caution as she embraces a more complex and refined sound on her fourth album — out Friday — and first in five years.

“There can be a real danger with people who have sort of originated as solo artists graduating into this full band incarnation,” Pratt says. “It can result in a watered-down sound or like a homogenous sound if you aren’t careful because maybe some of those more idiosyncratic qualities of the music can get stamped out.”

So when Pratt went into the studio to record “Here in the Pitch,” she was calculated and purposeful about the role each instrument would play.

“I guess we were trying to sort of think of it more as like a jazz approach or something, where the core essence of the music stands but there are these touches coming in to accent things,” she says.

Part of what inspired her to add more production and instruments was a better understanding of the size of the canvas on which she was painting.

“It was my second time making a record in the studio, so you sort of, maybe in between the first run and the second run in the studio, understand the resources you have at your disposal a bit more and are able to sort of imagine some of the extra color that you can give things,” she says.

The 37-year-old has often been compared to pioneering folk musicians like Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, but she's sometimes resisted these comparisons as reductive.

“If you play an acoustic guitar and you’re not doing something like radically specific stylistically that would counter a folk association, then it’s just sort of something that people turn to,” she says.

But this record’s enhanced production, departure from fingerpicking and the addition of more instruments, particularly percussion, reaffirm her contention that she is more than a folk singer, with some songs drawing on inspiration from classic California pop bands like the Beach Boys and the Walker Brothers.

But Pratt’s sound isn’t the only ode to Los Angeles in the 1950s and '60s on the album. Her lyrics are dripping with inspiration from that infamous era, channeling the old glamour of Hollywood and icons like Judy Garland, as well as notorious villains like Charles Manson.

Although Pratt grew up in Northern California, she says the City of Angels has always intrigued her.

“Coming of age, I read a lot of music books and bios and stuff, and, you know, I’d say like 90% of that touches on LA in some shape or form. So, it’s always held a certain level of mystique for me” she reflected.

Pratt proudly frequents historic Hollywood haunts like Musso and Frank Grill and admits to watching interviews with director David Lynch, though she won’t quite call herself a film buff compared to some of the more obsessive cinephiles who populate the city.

And while Pratt has released two other albums since she first moved to Los Angeles more than a decade ago, she believes the city’s influence on her has finally crystalized in this album.

“My second record came out shortly after I moved to LA. I wrote it right when I moved, so I was still probably running off of the fumes of San Francisco,” she says. “I’m not sure exactly why it took this long for the influence to materialize. But it certainly has.”